Wrapping our minds around weather and climate

ChiloquinNews article Jan 13th, 2014…

Weather is one of those things we love to talk about. It fills in awkward gaps in conversation, and there is always something to discuss – whether it’s too hot, cold, wet, dry, humid, grey, foggy, sunny, snowy – and whether we like, hate, love whatever it might be doing at the time. Funny though, that our memories are very short when it comes to weather. Ask 3 people what the winter was like last year, and you’ll likely get three completely different answers.

Back in the early 80’s Richard and I owned a cross-country ski area at Echo Summit, which is a gateway to Lake Tahoe for the California flatlanders. For the 4 winters before life took us in a different direction, weather was utmost in our minds, and I developed great empathy for farmers, whose whole lives depend upon weather. In those four short years we had one winter where no snow fell until the end of January, one winter where we got flooded out by rain in December and again in February, one winter where so much rain fell in March that Highway 50 collapsed near Placerville and the only road in was closed for months, and one winter where so much snow fell that I was digging down to the 3rd story window to get a little light into the house. Never did we just get a winter without drama, where people could just drive up and ski for the whole season.

And now, we are still seeing weather to marvel at. Some people think that if it’s very cold that global warming (or climate change) can’t possibly be taking place, and then a hot summer rolls around and others shout that it wouldn’t be like this except for global warming. But it would be. No wonder people are confused about global warming. In their minds they have not separated weather from climate.

Weather is what we see when we get out of bed in the morning. The definition of climate is the weather conditions prevailing in an area over a long period. So, if we want to discuss climate we have to look at what the weather has been doing for many years. There are many years of weather data available for these kinds of studies, and when you plot it out on a graph, it all points to the same thing. Whether we feel it or not, the earth is getting warmer. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all going to feel warmer. It’s predicted that the changes will be seen in other ways – some areas get dryer, or wetter, or even cooler, and the weather gets more unpredictable.

climate observations over the last 100 years This fascinating graphic from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change shows climate trends worldwide for the last hundred years. This is just what has been, not what may come. The blue bars show the temperatures expected by scientists if only natural forces are at work. The pink bars show what they expected if man is contributing to the climate, and the black line shows what has actually occurred. Speaks for itself.





In a study supported US and European space agencies, NASA and ESA, the rate of melting sea icepacks was examined. This is what they found. The icepacks ARE ice sheet contribution to rising sea levelsmelting.








Consider the ice ages – there have always been climate changes. So like it or not, believe it or not, climate is changing, but this time humans have had a lot to do with it and it’s happening at a much faster rate than climate changes of the past. Perhaps humans can react quickly enough to slow it down, but first they have to take the blinders off. Time will tell…….


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